Dental implants offer hope to those with damaged or missing teeth and are the gold standard of lost teeth replacement. Yet, despite their 95% success rate, implants are not infallible, and the risk of dental implant problems remains.
So how do you avoid being a part of the 5% who experience complications with their tooth implants?
In this post, we’ll discuss five of the most common complications and how to avoid them. So let’s get into it.
Infection is the number one cause of implant failure, yet, on the whole, it’s completely and easily avoidable.
Although a titanium implant is likely to last many years, it is susceptible to bacteria, particularly in the early days before it has had time to fuse with the remaining bone tissue. Once infection takes hold, it can cause implant failure.
Bacteria typically come from a build-up of dental plaque, and while the implant itself isn’t affected, the supporting gum tissue and bone are.
Signs of infection may include localized pain and swelling around the implant site. If left, the infection can trigger a condition known as peri-implantitis, resulting in a further loss of supporting bone, causing the dental implant to become loose.
When this happens, the only thing to do is remove the affected implant (if it hasn’t already come out), cure the infection, rebuild the bone and start the process again. As you can imagine, refitting a dental implant due to infection can take considerable time and money.
So how do you avoid dental implant problems like peri-implantitis?
If you do those things and commit to the long-term care of your restoration, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a strong and healthy implant for many years to come.
One key aspect that sets dental implants apart from other methods of tooth replacement is that it’s the only appliance to be fully supported in the jaw. Other procedures like conventional dentures and bridges are supported by other natural teeth or (in the case of complete dentures) the gum ridge. This makes them, and any supporting teeth, vulnerable.
Conversely, once an implant is anchored into the jaw, it relies on a natural process known as osseointegration, where the bone tissue fuses with the implant post. Over time, bone fusion creates a super-strong, stand-alone foundation that can then support a single crown, a bridge, or, along with several implants, an entire arch of teeth.
In most cases, osseointegration occurs within 2-5 months, depending upon the individual’s ability to generate bone tissue. However, certain conditions or lifestyle choices can cause this vital process to take considerably longer or even not occur at all.
For example, if you are a smoker and continue to smoke throughout the process, you should know that it impairs bone fusion. Research suggests that the failure rate of an implant when the recipient smokes increases by around 20%
Likewise, if you have uncontrolled diabetes, this too can affect osseointegration. Furthermore, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also disrupt implant stabilization.
The key to avoiding dental implant problems like osseointegration failure is to disclose any medical conditions or lifestyle choices like smoking or heavy drinking to your implant dentist during the initial screening process. This way, your dentist can decide whether you’re a good candidate for dental implant therapy.
Even if you do have diabetes or smoke or drink heavily, it isn’t always an outright no. Bringing your diabetes under control or committing to stopping smoking or drinking may still mean that you’re considered.
Another dental implant problem, although slightly less common, is blood clot failure. When an implant is first placed, patients may see some slight traces of blood emanating from the implant site. However, this typically happens only for a few hours after dental implant surgery until a blood clot has formed.
The formation of a blood clot is essential for two reasons. Firstly, it stops the bleeding process, and secondly, it forms a protective barrier around the site that prevents bacteria from entering.
Care must be taken to ensure the clot forms and remains in place, so patients must avoid sudden head movement or strenuous exercise for at least 24 hours after implant surgery.
In addition, patients should avoid drinking through a straw as the suction can damage a newly formed clot. Likewise, vigorous rinsing can also trigger the same outcome.
Furthermore, when a clot is damaged, it can result in a condition known as a dry socket. While dry socket is typically associated with wisdom tooth removal, it can also occur in implant cases. Symptoms of a dry socket include increased discomfort, aches and throbbing.
Patients are advised to bite down on some gauze for 30-60 minutes after surgery so that a clot can form, then they must follow the instructions provided by their implant dentist. Once the site has healed, the clot will disappear, taking 7-10 days on average. After this period, patients shouldn’t need to be quite so cautious.
Sometimes the placement of a dental implant can cause dental implant problems like nerve damage. This occurs when the implant pierces the nerve (usually the trigeminal nerve) during implant surgery. Although this is not as common as other dental implant problems, it does happen.
Implant-induced nerve damage can be temporary or permanent and may result in
that occur on the side of the face or the lower lip or chin.
Dental implant problems like this are naturally down to surgical error rather than a patient-induced process. Therefore, as someone looking to undergo dental implants, it’s advisable to choose an experienced implant dentist, possibly someone who uses a computer-guided technique. This way, you can ensure the best chance of implant success.
The final issue is to do with the sinus cavity. When an implant is placed in the upper jaw, it risks penetrating the maxillary sinus cavity. Sometimes, the sinus membrane drops when the upper bone diminishes after tooth loss. When this happens, a conventional implant would be too long to place in the upper jaw without piercing the sinus cavity. A pierced cavity can trigger further problems like frequent nose bleeding and discomfort.
For this reason, patients may be required to undergo a sinus lift before dental implant surgery. This process involves lifting the sinus back into position and creating more bone for the implant to be placed into without damaging the cavity.
If in doubt, ask your dentist about whether a sinus lift or bone graft is necessary.
Tooth implants provide patients with a safe and effective method of replacing teeth. While most implants will last for many years, it’s essential to know that dental implant problems can and do occur. Having a greater knowledge of these potential issues will ensure you have a successful and long-lasting treatment - one that you can benefit from for many years to come.
Dr Akinwande at Chesterfield Dentistry is devoted to creating new and improved smiles through outstanding dental implant treatment. Want to find out more about how she can help you?
Call 314-936 3621 or book a free consultation online today.
Photo courtesy of Freepik